OHS in procurement guideline should be the start and not the end

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The Chris Maxwell Report into OHS in Victoria is of historical interest now but one concept in particular from the report continues to echo in OHS and Government circles – government departments and authorities as exemplars of workplace safety.

The latest echo of this concept appeared in a WorkSafe Week seminar in Melbourne on 25 October 2010.  The seminar was to discuss the integration of OHS requirements in the procurement of construction services by government.

Maxwell said that

“…the Government as a whole can promote compliance, by being an exemplar of OHS best practice.  The public sector is a very large employer in Victoria and it should lead the way in OHS.”

and that

“…influence can be exerted by governments on dutyholders by making improved OHS performance a condition of eligibility for them to participate in government contract/tender processes.’

Maxwell’s statement came from the application of the parental question about leading by example, role model, “walking the walk”.  How can one expect contractors to operate safely if the client does not?  How can a parent expect good behaviour from children if good behaviour is not shown by the parent?

That government-as-OHS-exemplar continues to be discussed illustrates that the Maxwell statement must have had a considerable sting for government departments in Victoria. Continue reading “OHS in procurement guideline should be the start and not the end”

Media statements are everywhere as Safe Work Australia Week begins

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Today was a big day for organisations and government authorities to restate their commitments to workplace safety.

Queensland’s Industrial Relations Cameron Dick has stated that “workers and their families were paying too high a price for their jobs.

“Every year more than 100 Queenslanders die and tens of thousands more suffer a work-related injury or illness, costing the Queensland economy about $5 billion a year. That is just not good enough and we can all do more to reduce that toll.  Safety needs to become an integral part of the everyday culture of all Queensland workplaces and we must realise that safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

South Australia’s IR Minister, Paul Holloway has said

“The imperative to proactively manage safety is one we can never stop reinforcing, given the ever-changing nature of the workforce and the need to protect new entrants to the working environment.”

Very surprisingly he also said that

“We’re on track to beat the nationally-agreed target of a 40% reduction in workplace injury in the ten years to 2012, Continue reading “Media statements are everywhere as Safe Work Australia Week begins”

Hard copy OHS publications

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Printing is expensive and the internet has provided an attractive alternative and low-cost distribution network that particularly suits OHS information.  The precursor to the SafetyAtWorkBlog, the Safety AT WORK magazine, was distributed as a PDF magazine only and online for years.  Publishing online allows for all the printing costs to be outsourced to the subscribers or readers, or at least those who choose to print guidances, alerts, etc.

But it is reasonable to expect that during a national Workplace Safety Week, hard copies of government OHS guidances should be made available to those people who register or attend government-sponsored events, particularly if that event is a (“soft”) launch of a new guidance.

Today I attended a WorkSafe Victoria seminar where a panel of safety experts discussed government OHS requirements as they relate to procurement.  The seminar was also a launch of the new WorkSafe guide Health and safety in construction procurement – A handbook for the public sector No hard copies were available in the seminar for participants.  This raised the odd situation where it was possible to attend a seminar on a new guidance, listen to a WorkSafe representative talk about the guidance, listen to three panelists praise the guide but not have a copy of the guide. Continue reading “Hard copy OHS publications”

Safe Work Australia Ambassadors

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I am proud to be one of the 50 Safety Ambassadors in support of Safe Work Australia Week for 2010.  A list of Ambassadors is available at the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia has a strong support role for the safety week events held in each of the Australian States as well as providing national safety awards each year following on from the State awards mostly held this week.

Please take advantage of the many events occurring in your State.

Kevin Jones

Australian business is outraged over OHS changes but is it all piss and wind?

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Australian business groups have written an open letter to the New South Wales Government protesting about the decision to continue with some OHS processes specific to New South Wales regardless of previous commitments to support the harmonisation of OHS laws.  As the letter was published as an advertisement  (Page 6 of  The Australian on 20 October 2010), it is not readily available online but the letter needs a little bit of deconstruction to better understand the politics and ideologies behind the letter and the business associations.

The letter says Australian industry signed on to the national harmonisation process because of the need for an effective way of improving safety, fair legal processes and national consistency.  Yes, to some extent but more often industry groups have been calling for a reduction of red tape for the purpose of reducing administrative costs.  Reducing the injuries and fatalities of workers is not the same as “improving the safety of Australia’s workplaces”.

The ideological gap is shown in the argument against the national imposition of “reverse onus of proof”.  The letter uses Victoria as an example of a jurisdiction without the reverse onus of proof and says

“Victoria, which was used as the model for the new national laws and which does not have union prosecutions or reverse onus, has between 30% and 50% better safety outcomes than NSW depending on the measurement used“. (my emphasis)

What is a “better safety outcome”?  Less deaths?  Less cost to business?  Is it fair to compare NSW to Victoria?  And can the variation in “safety outcomes” be directly related to reverse onus of proof?   Continue reading “Australian business is outraged over OHS changes but is it all piss and wind?”